Two hundred and thirteen years ago today, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was founded, the last of the six original shipyards established by the US Navy. Today we celebrate the yard’s history of shipbuilding and innovation, and its continued importance to the economy of Brooklyn as an industrial park, but it almost never existed. Its founding in 1801 was rife with controversy, and around it swirled one of the central political battles of the early American republic. Today the Navy is one of the cornerstones of American power – possessing 10 of the world’s 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and more than one-third of all the naval tonnage in the world, the US Navy is 3.5 times the size of its nearest competitors, China and Russia. But at the end of the 18th century, the American navy was small and, at times, a non-existent force. While it achieved some notable victories in the Revolutionary War over a far superior British adversary, by 1785, economic constraints forced the nascent republic to sell off the last of its warships.>> Continue reading
If you have not yet been to the Brooklyn Museum to see their stunning exhibition WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY, make no delay – the show closes on Sunday, February 2, when its three-city tour will also come an end.
Rather than arranging the works of journalistic, artistic, and combat photography by conflict or photographer, in this show they are instead arranged into thematic clusters that draw links between war’s common denominators through the ages. Images range from the Crimean War of the 1850’s to present-day conflicts around the world. And beside the images of fighting are those of the more mundane daily life in a war zone – “Camp Life,” “Leisure Time” – as well as the human costs beyond the battlefield – “Executions,” “POWs,” “Refugees.”>> Continue reading
By now all of us who celebrate Christmas have given and received our gifts. While we all put a great deal of thought (hopefully) into finding the perfect present for our loved ones, we probably put considerably less into considering how that item arrived under the tree on Christmas morning (Santa-borne gifts excluded, of course). The last leg of the journey, whether sorted by Amazon, or shipped by UPS or the Postal Service, is certainly a logistical marvel unto itself, but we’re more interested in the first leg – and if any of those gifts or any of their components were made overseas (and even some that were made domestically), there is a 95% chance that they made the better part of their journey to your home by ship.>> Continue reading
Turnstile Tours is truly multimodal – with tours by foot, bus, and bicycle, we’re now hopping into canoes! On Saturday, June 15, our team will take to the murky, sheen-cloaked waters of Brooklyn’s beloved canal for the Gowanus Challenge canoe race. The event is put on by the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club to raise money for their public education and paddling programs. You can help support the Dredgers by sponsoring our team, the Turnstile Turtles. We’re aiming to raise $500 for the club, and any support you can provide would be greatly appreciated. To make a contribution, visit the donation page, and make sure to write “Turnstile Turtles” in the “Designation” section. Your donation will help the Dredgers continue to offer their education programs to local students, and to make their flotilla of canoes free for public use (see their schedule – free paddling times are usually Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons).>> Continue reading
One of our favorite photographs of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is affectionately referred to as the “Lincoln photo.” We will be examining this photo more closely, and the scene depicted in it, on Saturday’s Seasonal Photography Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
As far as we know, the man pictured in the foreground with the giant stovepipe hat and chin beard is not Abraham Lincoln. Though it sure does look like him – at least, the construction-paper-hat-and-beard Lincoln of our elementary school book reports.When this picture was taken in 1846, Lincoln was just a candidate for the House of Representatives from Illinois. Who that man is, we don’t know [Ed. note: See update below], but what is going on in the background of this picture would play a large role in the coming Civil War and the presidency of Mr. Lincoln.>> Continue reading
While developing our new tour about the World War II history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we encountered a fascinating – and largely untold – history of the oft-forgotten service branch, the Merchant Marines. While the wartime exploits of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Army Air Corps are often celebrated, merchant seamen have received short shrift, both in the history books and in real life.>> Continue reading
As we all know by now, the actual wind, rain, and storm surges from Hurricane Sandy this weekend were only the beginning. Thousands of people have lost their homes, and whole swaths of neighborhoods have been destroyed. As the weather gets colder this week, it’s more important than ever for those without shelter and power to get hot meals.
Thanks to the New York City Food Truck Association, along with generous help from JetBlue, a number of New York’s best food trucks have been able to provide hot meals to people in need, despite gas shortages and limited road service. Last week, trucks started appearing to donate food to the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan that were still without power, and they served over 20,000 meals. But as news reports started coming in about the massive devastation in areas like Staten Island and the Rockaways, the food trucks turned their engines to the communities that needed it most.>> Continue reading
Times of war have always brought the biggest transformations to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and none were bigger than those that took place during World War II. But long before the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged America into the global war, US military planners saw the need to expand the country’s navy in order to fight on two oceanic fronts. A larger navy required larger facilities not just to build ships, but to outfit, service, and repair them. In short, the navy needed more dry docks in more places around the world.>> Continue reading
Last month UnionDocs, a collective of documentary filmmakers based in Williamsburg, opened their season, and their newly renovated screening space, with a showing of two films by Peter Hutton about life – of men and ships – at sea. The screening was following by a discussion moderated by filmmaker Jem Cohen.>> Continue reading